Sexual misconduct inquiry discovers past abuse
By Lisa Brody
An investigation begun in April 2022, by an independent investigator hired by the Cranbrook Education Community after a Cranbrook graduate had informed the schools that he had experienced sexual misconduct while a student by a former faculty member, who worked at the schools from 1946-1961, determined two former employees had engaged in sexual misconduct in years past, but found no evidence that any current member of Cranbrook's faculty, staff or administration has engaged in any sexual misconduct with students.
On March 14, Linda Gillum, chair of the board of trustees, CEC President AimeClaire Roche and Director of Schools Jeff Suzik jointly sent out an email to alumni to inform that Linda Burwell, in independent investigator, a nationally-recognized employment law expert and owner of National Investigation Counsel, PLLC, a national niche law firm which partners with law firms and in-house counsel, had completed her work. Burwell was tasked with investigating the 60-year old complaint as well as interviewing former students who came forward with new allegations about other former employees or community members.
The letter notes that while Burwell did not find any evidence indicating that any current member of Cranbrook’s faculty, staff, or administration engaged in any form of sexual misconduct toward any students, there were new allegations that were reported to her about other former employees or community members. “The alleged incidents occurred years ago and were previously unknown to our current administration and Board of Trustees,” the letter stated.
In reviewing the allegations, Gillum, Roche and Suzik noted Burwell and her team interviewed 105 individuals, including alumni and former faculty, administrators, employees and third parties.
“Burwell’s investigation centered on instances of sexual misconduct by adults toward students. Ms. Burwell did not investigate any alleged activities among or between students or any reports of non-sexual behavior by adults involving academic matters,” the letter read.
The final findings determined that two former employees who were determined to have engaged in sexual misconduct during their time at Cranbrook Schools: Fred Campbell was employed by Cranbrook in a variety of roles from 1946 to 1961, including teacher, coach, and athletic director. He lived in a faculty apartment in a boys dormitory until he left Cranbrook in the summer of 1961.
There were nine former male students who made credible first-hand reports about sexual misconduct by Campbell, including by the original complainant. Burwell concluded that Campbell engaged in sexual misconduct with at least 11 male students during his time at Cranbrook.
“The pattern of behavior by Fred Campbell took the form of multiple sexual invitations, repeated sexual grooming activities, and some direct sexual touching of male students. Burwell determined that one student raised concerns about Fred Campbell’s behavior to Cranbrook’s administration in 1961. After those concerns were raised, Fred Campbell’s employment contract was not renewed for the next school year, although he continued to work at Cranbrook for the remainder of that semester – a response that is inconsistent with what would happen today,” the letter stated.
Campbell died in 2007.
The other individual was Daniel Deshetler, who worked as a maintenance staff employee for Cranbrook from 1971 until 1986. Based on a credible first-hand report, Burwell concluded that Deshetler sexually assaulted a minor male student in the early 1980s. The former student told Burwell that he had never reported the matter to anyone prior to calling Burwell in 2022 and talking with the independent investigators.
“As part of her fact-finding, Burwell learned that in 1986 Daniel Deshetler was arrested and convicted of criminal sexual conduct relating to a different incident on Cranbrook’s campus. In that incident, a minor on campus reported to Cranbrook that Daniel Deshetler had sexually assaulted him. Cranbrook administrators promptly contacted the minor’s parents and the police, and immediately suspended Daniel Deshetler and barred him from campus. The local police arrested Daniel Deshetler and, shortly thereafter, he pled guilty to criminal sexual conduct for this 1986 incident. He was incarcerated in prison for this crime for several years.”
From her investigation, Burwell learned Deshetler was convicted a second time for attempted criminal sexual conduct toward another minor (unconnected to Cranbrook) in Northern Michigan in 1998, and is listed on Michigan's sex offender registry.
In addition to Campbell and Deshetler, Burwell found credible evidence verifying the allegations against eight other individuals – former employees and one spouse of a former employee – who engaged in some form of sexual misconduct during their time at Cranbrook.
“Seven incidents occurred during the time period 1940 to 1980, and one incident occurred in the early 2010s. The range of behaviors included grooming, inappropriate touching, and, in two situations, sexual intercourse. Ms. Burwell confirmed that none of these eight individuals has been a part of the Cranbrook community for years. Five of the eight individuals are deceased,” Cranbrook informed alumni.
Burwell acknowledged receiving a number of reports of “gossip” or second-hand accounts which could not be verified of sexual misconduct between a former employee and a student.
The letter acknowledges in depth that reports or accusations of sexual misconduct are dealt with very differently today, with explicit policies prohibiting sexual misconduct, background checks on all employees, training for faculty and staff, as well as prompt investigations of any complaints.
“We are deeply sorry that any member of our schools community was harmed by these former employees and their actions, which are wholly contrary to the values of Cranbrook Schools and the Cranbrook Educational Community. While we know that our words will not erase our former students’ experiences nor the pain caused by these former employees, we are hopeful that our acknowledgement of their experiences and our sincere apology for what transpired offer some measure of personal healing,” Gillum, Roche and Suzik wrote.